Hart, Lorenz 1895–1943
Hart, Lorenz 1895–1943
(Lorenz Milton Hart>
PERSONAL: Born May 2, 1895, in New York, NY; died of pneumonia, November 22, 1943, in New York, NY; son of Max M. and Frieda (Isenberg) Hart. Education: Attended the Columbia School of Journalism. Religion: Jewish.
CAREER: Lyricist, songwriter, and composer. Producer of Broadway musicals.
AWARDS, HONORS: Commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp, 1999.
LYRICIST FOR MUSICALS
Fly with Me, 1920.
The Garrick Gaieties, Garrick Theater, 1925.
Dearest Enemy, 1925.
The Fifth Avenue Follies, 1926.
The Girlfriend, 1926.
Lido Lady, 1926.
One Dam Thing after Another, 1927.
A Connecticut Yankee, 1927, revised 1943.
Present Arms (also see below), 1928.
She's My Baby, 1928.
Chee-Chee, Mansfield Theater, 1928.
Heads Up! (also see below), 1929.
Simple Simon, 1930.
America's Sweetheart, 1931.
Jumbo (also see below), 1935.
Babes in Arms (also see below), 1936.
The Show Is On, 1936.
I'd Rather Be Right, 1937.
I Married An Angel (also see below), 1938.
The Boys from Syracuse (also see below), 1938.
Too Many Girls (also see below), 1939.
Higher and Higher (also see below), 1940.
Pal Joey (also see below), 1940.
By Jupiter, 1942.
Contributor, with Richard Rodgers, to A Lonely Romeo, 1919; and Poor Little Ritz Girl, 1920. Also translated operettas and plays from German to English.
LYRICIST FOR FILMS
Present Arms, 1930.
Spring Is Here, 1930.
Heads Up!, 1931.
The Hot Heiress, 1931.
Love Me Tonight, 1932.
The Phantom President, 1932.
Dancing Lady, 1933.
Hallelujah, I'm a Bum, 1933.
Hollywood Party, 1934.
The Merry Widow, 1934.
Manhattan Melodrama, 1934.
The Dancing Pirate, 1936.
Fools for Scandal, 1938.
Babes in Arms, 1939.
On Your Toes, 1939.
Too Many Girls, 1940.
The Boys from Syracuse, 1940.
They Met in Argentina, 1941.
I Married an Angel, 1942.
Higher and Higher, 1943.
Pal Joey, 1957.
SIDELIGHTS: Lorenz Hart was an extremely successful lyricist of Broadway musicals produced from 1920 to 1942 (Hart died in 1943). Hart was writing songs and lyrics over a period of time known today as the golden age of American songwriting, and several of Hart's musicals have since been revived and produced (many nearly sixty years after his death). Numerous individual songs from Hart's many musicals are considered American standards. Perhaps his most famous singles are "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Blue Moon," and "My Funny Valentine." It is important to note that throughout his career, Hart worked with composer Richard Rodgers. For the most part, Rodgers would first compose the score, and Hart would next write the lyrics. Hart, then, is perhaps best recognized as the latter half of 'Rodgers & Hart,' as the duo and their work was, and is, known by audiences.
Hart also adapted several of his musicals for film, and he composed the lyrics for several original films as well. Perhaps the most popular original film that Hart worked on is Love Me Tonight. Released in 1932, the film became a success at the height of Hart's career.
According to a Dictionary of American Biography writer, Hart "contributed to musical comedies sharp, tasteful lyrics finely coordinated with rhythm and melody and with the plot, mood, and action of the play." These qualities can be seen in Hart's earliest musicals, such as the 1925 production of The Garrick Gaieties a humorous review akin to the famous Ziegfeld follies. The same irreverent wit can be seen in later musicals as well, including The Boys from Syracuse, which premiered in 1938. The musical was adapted as a film a few years later, but it has remained relevant and popular in its original form, and was last revived on Broadway in 2002.
Slowly, Hart began to move away from his more comedic, stylized musicals in an attempt to create a more naturalistic theater experience. Hart's last musicals, Pal Joey (1940) and By Jupiter (1942), reflect this. A contributor to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture noted that, with Pal Joey, Hart "departed from conventional musical theater practice and built the production around a much darker subject than Broadway was accustomed to contemplating." The musical is about a nightclub worker who leaves his girlfriend for a wealthier woman. Even though the wealthy woman builds her new lover a nightclub, she eventually leaves him also. Although the musical was not a hit, the movie, starring Frank Sinatra, has assured its longevity and prominence.
Despite his numerous successes, Hart was an alcoholic, perhaps due to the fact that he was a homosexual living in a time historically unkind to those with alternative sexual orientations. Although Hart died at the early age of forty-eight from pneumonia, it is likely that the initial deterioration that caused the illness was a result of his alcoholism. Hart's death, however, has had little effect on his legacy. In 1995 New York City celebrated the centennial of Hart's birth, and in 1999 Hart was honored with a commemorative U.S. postage stamp. Review performances of Hart's songs also continue to be produced.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 3: 1941–1945, American Council of Learned Societies (New York, NY), 1973.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Back Stage, May 9, 1997, David A. Rosenberg, review of The Boys from Syracuse, p. 52; February 26, 1999, David A. Rosenberg, review of Babes in Arms, p. 59.
Commentary, April, 2002, Terry Teachout, review of "Glad to be Unhappy," p. 57.
Daily Variety, August 19, 2002, review of The Boys from Syracuse, p. 2.
New Statesman, February 12, 1999, Richard Cook, review of "Funny Valentine," p. 45.
Newsweek, May 15, 1995, Jack Kroll, review of Pal Joey, p. 45.
Opera News, August, 1998, review of The Boys from Syracuse, p. 38.
Variety, September 2, 2002, Markland Taylor, review of Babes in Arms, p. 33.
Guide to Musical Theater, http://www.nodanw.com/ (March 21, 2006), author profile.
Lorenz Hart, http://www.lorenzhart.org (March 21, 2006), author profile and bibliography.
Songwriters Hall of Fame Web site, http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/ (March 21, 2006), author profile.